Which virus-specific lab studies are used for the diagnosis of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) pneumonia?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection and pneumonia can be diagnosed mostly on clinical grounds. VZV can be isolated from vesicular fluid, respiratory secretions, or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by culture. Rapid antigen detection tests such as direct immunofluorescence can be performed on cell scrapings of skin lesions.

A Tzanck smear obtained by unroofing a cutaneous lesion for material may show multinucleated giant cells with eosinophilic intranuclear inclusions but cannot distinguish between HSV and VZV and has a sensitivity of 60%. VZV PCR can also be performed using many different body fluids (particularly CSF).

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